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Boosting Sustainable Shore Use in the Eastern Gulf of Finland

 

The Eastern Gulf of Finland hosts a variety of human activities as well as sites of cultural,   historical and natural values. The geographically small coastal and marine area is rich with major ports, busy waterways, blue economy businesses activities, and a wide variety of leisure activities. Inevitably, environmental challenges cannot be avoided. Therefore, the needs and interests of different actors need to be considered and balanced, natural and cultural values preserved, environmental impacts mitigated, and efforts made to improve the state of the environment where it has been deteriorated. Traditionally, land use planning has served as a tool for managing and regulating the use of land and coastal areas. Similarly, planning measures need to be taken in marine and coastal areas, where the human-induced pressure has significantly increased. The situation calls for cooperation and tools for sustainable use of marine and coastal areas. 


Best practices for sustainable shore use in the Eastern Gulf of Finland    

 

The GET READY consortium of academic, scientific and business partners has examined the best practices for sustainable shore use and coastal zone management against the key aspects of the HELCOM-VASAB guidelines for the implementation of the ecosystem-based approach in MSP, such as participatory planning, identification of ecosystem services and human-ecosystem interactions, alternative planning solutions, and precautionary principle. The Finnish Maritime Spatial Planning (MSP) process has served as an example of the implementation of the ecosystem approach on the national level. In addition, national legislation and planning practices have been examined through four cases, Kymenlaakso regional plan from the year 2013, Kotka-Hamina strategic general plan from the year 2018, Ust-Luga port, and avanport Bronka. The legislative frames, and the resulting planning practices, are very different in Finland and in Russia. However, the ecosystem-based management may be applied successfully within differing legislative and administrative frameworks, governance styles, and planning cases.


Identifying ecosystem services illustrates complex relationships between the environment and human well-being

One of the most potential practices to strengthen the evidence-based sustainable management of the coastal and marine environment at the Eastern Gulf of Finland is the identification of the ecosystem services. They are the benefits which people obtain from ecosystems, such as food or water, marine scenery, recreational services, fish catch, as well as supporting services such as the industrial use of soil. Ecosystem services have largely been taken for granted. It is only due to severe environmental problems, such as the eutrophication of the Baltic Sea, that people have started to pay attention to the irreplaceable natural values. The Dasgupta Review, which has drawn worldwide attention, has brought up the value of nature as the cornerstone for the whole humankind - our economies, livelihoods and well-being alike. The Review suggests that natural capital should be injected into national accounting, bringing economics and ecology face to face. By changing the way we are used to think, act and measure success, we can help to save the natural world, and in doing so save ourselves.

The Ecosystem services have already been discussed in the context of the Gulf of Finland Year 2014, in the assessment on the environmental state of the Gulf of Finland by scientist from Estonia, Finland, and Russia. The Gulf of Finland Assessment suggests that visualization and valuation of ecosystem services would benefit the sustainable management of the Gulf of Finland as a common property resource. Giving a price tag for those services that are not automatically recognized as important components contributing to human well-being – such as aesthetic experiences or recreation – might help the society to recognize even better that the ecosystem is a provider of a wide array of services.

Ecosystem Services and Land-Sea Interactions – GET READY perspective

The GET READY consortium has considered ecosystem services and their identification as one of the most potential practices of the ecosystem approach at the Eastern Gulf of Finland. Identification of ecosystem services enables to define and visualize the linkages between ecosystems and human well-being. This way, it can be used to support ecosystem-based management both on land and in the coastal and marine areas. Both Finland and Russia have collected extensive and long-term monitoring and research data concerning the Eastern Gulf of Finland, which could serve as a basis for taking the regional ecosystem services under examination in a wider perspective. Developing a comprehensive understanding about the use of the natural resources in the Eastern Gulf of Finland would be beneficial for the land-use and mari